How does the scent of lavender work?
Lavender is used in many different products, for example in bath oils and fabric softeners, because it spreads a pleasant fragrance, promotes sleep and helps to relax. Researchers are now looking for the causes of these effects.
In their investigation, the scientists at Kagoshima University in Japan identified the causes of the sleep-promoting and relaxing effects of lavender. The active ingredient in lavender (linalool) does not act as a pharmacological active ingredient. The effect of linalool is rather triggered by the sense of smell. The experts published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience".
Is Lavender a Safe Alternative to Medicines?
Lavender relaxes, promotes sleep and can even reduce feelings of anxiety. Can lavender possibly have the potential to offer a safe alternative to sleeping pills and anxiolytics? So-called benzodiazepines (medicines used as sleeping pills or sedatives) can lead to a number of side effects, such as memory problems and male breast growth. After ingestion, anxiolytics and benzodiazepines enter our blood through the stomach and intestines. In this way they also affect some receptors in our brain. Unfortunately, these drugs make people addicted. Using lavender could prevent this problem.
How does Linalool work?
Scientists at Kagoshima University analyzed whether the smell of the active ingredient in lavender (linalool) helps the mice to relax. The ingredients of the flower do not work by swallowing or spraying. Instead, the lavender scent must irritate certain olfactory sensors in the nose. These transmit nerve signals to the brain. However, this effect was not observed in rodents without a sense of smell, the researchers explain. This contradicts previous theories that suggested that linalool like benzodiazepine is absorbed. Taken together, these results indicate that linalool does not act directly on so-called GABAA receptors such as benzodiazepines, study author Dr. Kashiwadani from Kagoshima University. With linalool and benzodiazepines, the experts were able to prevent the effects if the receptors were previously treated with flumazenil.
More research is needed
The scientists said that more research is now needed to determine the safety and efficacy of linalool in several ways before it can be studied in humans. The results of the study could lead to the clinical use of linalool to alleviate anxiety in the future, explains Dr. Kashiwadani. For example, linalool could be used in surgery where pretreatment with anxiolytics relieves preoperative stress. Linalool could offer a safe alternative for patients who have difficulty taking anxiolytics, such as infants or confused elderly people. (as)